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Pa. hospital to close its neonatal nursery

Chambersburg Hospital officials say they are basing their decision to close the nursery on patient safety reasons

Chambersburg Hospital officials say they are basing their decision to close the nursery on patient safety reasons

June 27, 2002

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Hospital plans to close its intermediate neonatal nursery this summer and will offer only basic newborn care, hospital officials said Wednesday.

The hospital will continue to provide a level I nursery, but the level II intermediate nursery service will close as soon as Aug. 6.

High-risk infants will be transferred to facilities with which the hospital already has relationships for level III services.

The change will not affect maternity services for women having normal or Caesarean section deliveries, officials said.

"Our decision was made for patient safety purposes. It's based on the premise that facilities offering both level II and level III nurseries, such as Pinnacle Health Systems and Hershey Medical Center, are more equipped to handle difficult situations requiring more intensive clinical management," Norman B. Epstein, president and CEO of Chambersburg Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

In the last year, only 5 percent - 55 of 1,100 deliveries at Chambersburg Hospital - required level II neonatal services.

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The services typically are needed by babies of mothers with illnesses that could adversely affect the fetus, such as diabetes, toxemia or drug addition, officials said.

Neonatal intensive care units, which are considered level III facilities, are specifically equipped and staffed for the treatment of high-risk infants and those otherwise in need of intensive care.

Those facilities are required to meet the standards established in the guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics, officials said.

In making the decision, the hospital considered the difficulties in recruiting pediatricians with specialized skills, including neonatology, to the area.

Pediatric residency programs of 10 to 20 years ago had a much more significant amount of neonatal intensive care training than they do today, officials said.

"Given the circumstances, we believe our decision is in the best interest of both the mother and her infant," Epstein said. "It's no secret the specialties of neonatology dealing with this type of care, and those physicians who provide it, are found in larger centers."

In making the decision, hospital officials also met with area pediatricians and two obstetrics-gynecology groups who practice at Chambersburg Hospital - Women's Health Professionals of Chambersburg and Keystone Women's Care.

"Our physicians believe the safety of our patients is our first priority, and they have a comfort level with us maintaining normal newborn nursery (level I) and maternity services," Epstein said.

Chambersburg Hospital's decision is consistent with the services being offered by other area hospitals, including Washington County Hospital, Carlisle Hospital, Gettysburg Hospital, and Waynesboro Hospital. These facilities all currently provide level I nursery services, according to Chambersburg Hospital officials.

Last year Summit Health, which operates Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals, closed its maternity clinic for low-income and uninsured women due to skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums.

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